Since it’s spring-time, here’s a reminder!
If you see a wild baby animal, chances are very high it is not lost and it does not need your help. Its mother is likely either a short distance away and watching, or she has remembered where she placed her baby and she will come back for it soon. These species have been around for a really damn long time without our help- the babies are almost always able to survive without human intervention or interference, unless something truly unusual and obviously bad is going on. I know they look tiny and helpless, but they will make it! They are more resilient than they look, and their parents are very watchful, even if you don’t see them there. Wildlife rehabbers get swamped by people who “rescued” baby animals that never needed rescuing. It would have been much better to just leave them to nature, and save the rehabber’s space only for those who truly need help. It’s very kind that humans are so maternal over other species, but please, resist the urge to “save” it.
Exceptions are if:
- You can see an injury on it- open wound, limbs that appear broken, etc.
- It seems ill- listless, unresponsive, discharge from eyes or nose, surrounded by flies or other parasites, etc.
- It’s in a dangerous place, like a yard with a dog or cat, or in/near a street- in which case, move it somewhere safer and leave it alone
- You know for a fact the mother is dead
- The baby is making distressed sounds, crying, calling, etc
- It’s young enough that its eyes are still closed, but it’s out of its den
Don’t feel like just because you don’t see the parent, it’s abandoned. Rabbits will leave their babies alone for the majority of the day, only returning at dusk/dawn to feed them. Deer will leave their fawns alone for up to 10 hours a day. A fawn curled up peacefully somewhere is probably just waiting for mom; it’s fine. Fledgling birds (too young to fly reliably yet, but old enough that it has feathers) often sit in one spot outside of the nest for much of their time, with parents only periodically fluttering by to feed it. Quite frankly, when you take a baby rabbit who was in no sort of trouble, just because you found it in your yard and it was really really cute, you’re just stealing a mother’s baby. There is no good reason to do this, and in doing so, you’re probably just setting it up for a lower likelihood of survival. Mother animals get extremely distressed when they find their babies missing, and will search and call for it for days. Don’t do this to either of them unless you really have to.
BUT, if you have any doubts or questions, call a wildlife rehabilitator- you can find their number easily by googling for one in your area. If you can’t find any, call your local humane society as a secondary option; they should be able to put you in touch with one. It’s likely that, if they determine the situation to be one that needs intervention, they’ll tell you to do the following:
- Gently place it in a pet carrier or box that you can close (but obviously don’t completely seal it or anything), and place it in a quiet, dark, warm location.
- Don’t mess with it anymore than you have to! Don’t call your kids over for a petting session, don’t snuggle it or talk to it, just leave it alone once you have it in a safe location.
- Do NOT feed it. This will very likely do more harm than good- you don’t know what it should be eating, and you could easily kill it. Plus, it’s probably too freaked out to want to eat anyway.
In some situations, especially with potentially dangerous animals, a wildlife transporter will come to your location to take the animal. (Presumably if you had a potentially dangerous one, though, you wouldn’t have been instructed to handle it or move it at all anyway.) But usually, you’ll be asked to drive the baby over yourself to the rehabilitator. They will generally take them for free, but giving a donation is the right thing to do- rehabilition is EXPENSIVE.
The baby stands the greatest chance of survival if there’s any way it can be left safely with its mom. Rehabilitators do fantastic work, but they are no substitute for its natural mother- and before you start thinking, “Okay then, I’ll just take care of it myself”- don’t. I’ve seen several times where people tried to take care of an animal themselves, realized they were making it sicker, and only brought it to the rehabber once it was too fargone to save- or they kept it as a pet, and then once it grew to a point where it was becoming trouble, dropped it off with the rehabber who then could not release the animal because it was habituated to humans. The best option is its natural mother, and the second best option is a trained and licensed rehabilitator.
IT MAKES ME REALLY HAPPY WHEN PEOPLE REFER TO ME AS THEIR FRIEND WHOA. FRIEND